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Articles on Personality Development
Interview Techniques - VI

Personal interview is the last hurdle in the selection process to the defence forces through SSB Interviews, apart from the medical examination. Every candidate is tested by a psychologist, G.T.O. and finally by the President or Deputy President of the Selection Board.

The aim of the personal interview is to have a closer look at the personality of every candidate through conversation in friendly discussion. To keep the interview formal and the candidate at ease, only one interviewer interacts with the candidate. The information given by the candidate, on the very first day in the questionnaire, forms the initial basis for questions during the course of interview.


At an average, every interview lasts about 30-40 minutes. The President of the Board begins in a very friendly manner by asking very personal questions from the candidates like name, detail of the brothers and sisters, occupation of parents, names of good friends, place to which the candidate belonged. About 10 minutes-time is devoted on these questions so that the candidate is put at ease. Name of the educational institutions where one studied, subjects offered, marks obtained etc are a few other questions that may be initially expected. In addition to putting a candidate at ease, the President also observes the qualities of friendliness and the ease with which one can handle simple and personal questions. Other questions in the interview may be about games played, hobbies, girl/boy friends and the means adopted by the candidate to remain fit. As a young and educated person, one is expected to either play or have keen interest in some games. Similarly, every person is expected to have a hobby, be it reading, playing games, swimming, driving, gardening, philately, riding, photography or travelling. Every young candidate, aspiring to become an officer in the armed forces, is also expected to have friendship with the opposite sex. Hence all these questions must be answered accordingly.

Final part of the personal interview may include a few questions on current topics, general knowledge, some imaginary situation for reaction and small simple problems for judging the administrative planning capabilities of the candidate. Problem solving may be judged by depicting a simple real-life imaginary situation involving the brothers, sisters, parents or friends to which reaction of the candidate is judged. Similarly, a small administrative problem may be given to a candidate including organization of a match or a picnic. The candidate is then asked to give his/her step by step planning and execution and perception of happening of the event, without its actually taking place.

How to tackle?

As has been hinted above, the questions in the interview must be tackled very carefully. The candidates should not be in a hurry to reply the questions. The questions should be properly understood and after considering the contents for a while, reply should be given. Regarding personal questions, the candidates should be careful that they do not hide material facts or try to give wrong facts. It must be understood clearly that the President conducting the interview handles several candidates every day and does the same thing over the years. Moreover, he is trained to interview candidates in such a manner as the truth comes out. Any attempt to hide some facts or give wrong facts will be certainly picked up by the experienced President and they usually make the candidate realize during the interview itself that he/she was trying to bluff. Moreover, no candidate is expected to be perfect, as every human being does have some weaknesses. However, it should also be ensured that no unnecessary details are given by the candidate. The replies should be to the point and relevant to the questions asked.

The same principle applies to the other questions like games played, hobbies pursued and friends (particularly from the opposite sex) held. The games which are stated to be played by the candidate should be ones about which the candidate has complete knowledge and is able to reply to most of the questions. Similarly, the interviewer devotes a lot of time to the hobby named by the candidate. The candidates must, therefore, make sure that the hobbies and games they name must be fully known to them. Rather than bluffing in this regard, it is better to give a negative reply. Moreover, as earlier pointed out it is good to have friends from the opposite sex with healthy and friendly relations. But in case there is no such friend, the fact should be admitted without hesitation.

Finally, the questions on current affairs and general knowledge need a little-bit of brushing up of knowledge in this field.

The questions on the reactions in given situations have to be handled very carefully. The candidates must grasp situation completely, clarify the doubts if any and after taking some time to think, come out clearly with the course of action. Choosing a right course of action is not very difficult. The candidates must imagine themselves in similar situation and consider the most probable course of action which would be taken by them, which invariably is also the right solution to the problem. In their reactions, the candidates must not bring in any artificiality and unnecessary heroism. They should react as if they would have done in a similar real life situation. Due care, therefore, must be exercised as this is one of the most crucial aspects of the interview. Two more questions which must be prepared properly arre (a) "Why do you want to join the Defence Forces?"; (b) "If you are not selected what would you do?" These are often-repeated questions and must be answered very honestly and correctly, without any exaggeration.

Balanced Behaviour

While proper replies to the questions are important balanced conduct of the candidates is still more important. The candidates should avoid use of slangs and be very respectful to interviewer. Use of language and expression are the plus points but the candidates are usually not penalized for weak expression, as it is believed that the problems of fluency and expression are overcome during the training period. The candidates must be composed and maintain their poise. Lack of confidence in replying to the questions reflects lack of knowledge and self-confidence. At the same time one must not be over confident or arrogant.

The interviewers are trained to identify the signals sent by the body language along with the spoken word. Whatever is spoken from the mouth must be reflected from the eyes of the candidate as well the tone of his/her voice. Hence, body language must be controlled to convey the same meaning as the word of the mouth. Any contradiction reveals the untruthful intention of the candidate. It should, however, be kept in mind that no unnecessary gesticulations are made with hands and sitting posture is also proper, as recommended for the interviews.

The appearance and bearing of the candidate helps in making a good first impression. The clothes need not be new or highly fashionable and bright, but should be sober and properly cleaned. Hair should be properly groomed and hands should be properly cleaned with the nails cleanly cut. While describing their achievements, the candidates should be modest without being boastful and while admitting weaknesses and failures, they should not be ashamed or evasive. There must be eye-contact with the interviewer for most part of the interview.

Interview Etiquettes

In addition to the above there are certain established interview etiquettes which must be strictly adhered to. One must enter the room after seeking permission. On entering the room, the candidate must suitably wish the interviewer and should sit only when he/she is asked to do so. On being offered a seat, one is expected to thank the interviewer. In case the President offers a hand for handshake, it must be shaken firmly, but the candidates, on their own should not initiate shaking the hands. Seat should be taken promptly and the candidate should sit properly and if possible in an upright manner.

The interviewee should offer a bright and cheerful face. If the President calls for a cup of tea or lights a cigarette and also offers to a candidate, it should be declined gracefully, without annoying him. In a very few cases if the President asks some irritating and personally offending questions, the candidates must not loose their poise and temper. Such a question may be aimed at seeing whether or not a candidate gets provoked easily. The candidates should also show flexibility and admit his/her mistakes, if any pointed out by the President. If a question is not clearly understood or heard, the President may be requested politely to repeat it as there is no harm in it. As the interview is over, the candidates should thank the President, get up without battling with the chair, wish him appropriately and quietly leave the room. The questions like "How have I done Sir?" should not be asked by the candidates while leaving the interview room.

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